John Hoffman, the Backbone of Crucible Tool


John at our warehouse in Indianapolis.

While Raney Nelson and I could gin up some pretty good tools and get them made, we’d quickly become overwhelmed by all the other parts of the tool-making business – warehousing, fulfillment, returns, customer service, accounting, taxes, permits, fees and any computer file that ends with a .xls.

If you’ve ever run your own full-time business, then you know that you needs someone who is willing to do the supremely un-sexy parts of running a real business. At Lost Art Press, that has always been John Hoffman, who is my 50-percent partner in the company and – honest – like an older brother to me.

What he does is thankless. When someone receives a poster with a bent corner (curse you, posters), it’s John and his sidekick Meghan Bates, who fix things. When we get an erroneous letter from some taxing authority, John cleans it up. When our warehouse pickers forget how to read, John is the one who knocks heads and keeps their error rate in check.


So when we started Crucible Tool, a huge concern was this: Would John want to do this all again and be the Crucible Tool Donkey? Lucky for me and Raney, John was just as enthusiastic. John rightly pointed out that he had already built a fulfillment, customer service and accounting system that could be copied (almost) verbatim for Crucible. We could use our same warehouse, same shipping backend software, same web interface.

John was in. And that was when Raney and I had simultaneous involuntary colon relaxation episodes.

So when we start shipping holdfasts (and a second tool to be announced soon), you can expect the same high level of shipping fulfillment and service when something goes sideways.

You might get a chance to meet John in the coming year. John has volunteered to hit the road on behalf of Crucible Tool and travel to a fair number of Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events to demonstrate the tools (and sell them).


That will allow Raney and me to focus on designing and making the tools, plus educating customers on our website.

I could just end this entry here, but I’d like to add something personal that will explain why John has always been one of my closest friends during the last 13 or 14 years.

John and I met in person at an Indianapolis woodworking show years ago. And after a series of phone calls, we ended up taking a chair class together in Cobden, Ontario. Before heading out to Cobden we spent a day or two in Ottawa to check out some museums.

Somehow we ended up in some French cafe, drinking coffee, eating croissants and talking about woodworking. I’m sure I was yammering about something when John stood up and helped an elderly woman who was struggling to pull her coat on. Then he pivoted and sat down again like nothing had happened. No big deal.

That was the first indicator (for me) that John was someone who always did the right thing and didn’t make a big fuss about it.

Since that first trip, John and I have traveled all over the United States and Europe together. We’ve built a good publishing company during the last nine years. And we’re now ready to build another company with Crucible.

I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather do this with. And though the backend of any business doesn’t make for interesting blogs on a daily basis, I think it’s important to let you know that that if I’m the mouth of Crucible, Raney is the brain and John is all the bones and guts that ensure we stay in business for many years to come.

– Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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16 Responses to John Hoffman, the Backbone of Crucible Tool

  1. In the one case that I had a minor shipping issue Mr. Hoffman responded quickly, in an extremely pleasant and human way. The content brought me here, the service keeps me here. Glad to hear he’s part of the team, looking forward to see what you gents will be offering.

  2. I’ve always been impressed by how John remembers my name every time I see him at a show or event. I’m not the most prolific blogger, or commenter, or woodworker. But once a year I see him and he enthusiastically shakes my hand and addressed me by first name. Thanks John.

    • ewingda says:

      John is “good people.” All of Lost Art Press is. It is encouraging to me, we are all diverse in background, politics, education, etc…but this team ignores all of that and lets people be people because we all share a common thread. I can only hope these these guys rub off on me and I am better for it!

  3. John put me in contact with a German source of the ATC before they were imported into England, hence I was probably the first to read this revolutionary book here. My friend and I have both wanted to set up a tool design business and if it were not for our ages we would actually have done just that. Hence I feel quite envious of this and the other great achievements of having such a well designed and delightfully reconstructed store and the junior staff making polish. I wish I lived in the States so I could visit and attend the hand tool event.

    How do I contact Crucible Tools if I come up with a design I think may be worth making?

  4. John Paver says:

    How do we order your products?

  5. I can only join the warmhearted quire, as I had the pleasant experience of meeting all 3 of you gentlemen during the weekend tool event hosted by Lie Nielsen at Braxton Brewery in Covington, KY and the following book release at LAP in march, when everything was still hush about Crucible tool.

    Unfortunately, what should have been a couple of extra days of exploring the area for sourcing 2nd hand pre wwII tools and building techniques, wound up in the harsh beginning of what seems to have been a case of 2 month cold pneumonia – untreated, as the initial inflammation had worn off by the time I had a chance to see the doc. Guess this means I will eventually have to come back, since I’m still alive and kicking.

    All the best to you in your new (ad)ventures!


  6. Scott Taylor says:

    In my industry I started as a technician moved to project management and then on to sales. I can tell you no business is more successful than its backdoor operations allow it to be and nothing is more under appreciated. Mr. Hoffman is obviously very good at his job and that shows because it does not show, the mark of real genius in operations.

  7. fatfrogdecoys says:

    Does the warehouse staff always lie to John about the size of the fish they caught?

  8. I concur! The Hoff is the BEST!

  9. rdwilkins says:

    It’s just more proof that a big reason a business is really good is because it’s run by really good people.

  10. Eric R says:

    John is the kind of man any successful company needs.
    Go Crucible !

  11. I knew he was special when he made me pizza in his hot tub. Pure genius!

  12. charlie says:

    Hey John, If you are the shipping man, you should source some boxes like the old vintage boxes that Stanley tools came in. Maybe something archival with the metal edges and a nice label? I saved all my Lie-Nielsen boxes because the are so cool. They are much better than bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts. OK….Just “packaging” some thoughts for you! … good luck

  13. Paul Straka says:

    Looking forward to Crucible Tools!!!

  14. mcdara says:

    John is one heck of a nice guy, but his taste in Beer is slightly less than refined.

  15. JimM says:

    Wow…what a compliment to the Partnership! Integratity is formost in any enterprise. Looking forward to all that is to come and wishing you the best of success. Cheers.

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